Vertigo or Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

Image of an old dog laying on the ground.

Vertigo is a syndrome in the elderly dog, which can be very frightening to the owners. The dog is suddenly afflicted with a balance problem, usually staggering, but occasionally unable to stand, and more rarely actually rolling over and over. There is a tilting of the head to one side and nystagmus, a rhythmic flicking movement of the eyes. Nausea and vomiting may also in present. It is not due to a stroke, as most people assume. It is thought to be due to an abnormal flow of fluid in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear. It is more common in older medium to large breeds of dogs. It is rarely seen in cats. Although the symptoms are alarming and often incapacitating to the dog, the prognosis is good. Improvement of clinical signs usually starts within 48-72 hours and most patients are normal within two to three weeks, even with no treatment. A mild head tilt may persist. Veterinarians should be consulted as the symptoms can also be caused by ear infections, foreign bodies in the ear, or tumors. The vestibular system may need treatment, with motion sickness drugs, or intravenous fluids if the nausea is severe or the dog is unable to eat or drink for a few days.

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  • "Dr. Amy is the most amazing veterinarian in the world. We were sure that our golden retriever, Rose, was going to be leaving our family. We were heartbroken and so sad to be losing her, but Dr. Amy gave us a glimmer of hope when we could see none. She thought by looking at Rose that she wasn't ready to give up and knew that we weren't either. She gave us the option to start her on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds and it's now been 3 1/2 days and Rose is starting to return to her normal, loving self. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it! Thank you Dr. Amy and the staff at Hoof & Paw veterinary clinic in Menomonie, WI for caring so much! We will be forever grateful!!"
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